7th May 2020

As parents, pupils and teachers across the country wait to hear when and how schools will officially re-open following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, Wave is continuing to do what it does best – providing the highest quality education for its pupils and equipping them with the skills they need for both education and life.

Recognised as the most successful trust in the country for providing education for pupils who have been excluded from school, Wave runs six academies based in Cornwall, three academies based in Devon and the Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES) & Torlands based across three centres in Devon and Cornwall.  

Following the World Health Organisation announcement that the coronanvirus outbreak had been declared a pandemic, and the introduction of restrictions in the UK to limit the spread of the virus, Wave introduced a Distance Model of Learning and Safeguarding so it could continue to offer education and support to pupils who were following the Government guidance to stay at home.

This has seen the 300 members of staff delivering education remotely to more than 750 pupils through a range of different methods and technologies at the same time as providing support to parents and families.

All families are receiving daily phone calls from staff checking they are okay and offering support and guidance, as well as being provided with targeted online tasks and teaching support. Some staff are also sending hand written letters to their pupils, providing them with jokes related to their interests, and even delivering the odd cake to the door step.

Children worried about the constant news stories are encouraged to use games, puzzles, and art work to help manage their anxiety. Staff are also encouraging them to do exercise with specially created fitness programmes, and, if possible, to grow things in their gardens.

Teachers have been very impressed by the positive attitude shown by pupils to the new models of learning. "Some of our students are working harder than they've ever worked before! They are on fire!" said one English lead teacher, while another teacher added “the support has been varied - hard copies, emails, Teams, phone calls, texts, wellbeing packs - students say it works really well.”

Staff are also providing additional support to families with a history of difficult relationships who are finding isolation challenging, and to those with mental health problems.

“We know that the closure of schools has created specific problems for some families and have been working hard to provide them with extra support “ said Wave CEO Rob Gasson. “In one case where a pupil with an interest in martial arts had a frayed relationship with his father and had been shutting himself away in their room, staff encouraged them to start training together. The mother also decided to join in the training as well and the pupil has decided he wants a future in fitness and sports coaching.

In another case staff had concerns about a pupil who suffers very severely from anxiety. The pupil has a keen interest in the gym and fitness, he was encouraged by staff to run daily fitness sessions for his younger brother. The sessions have helped keep him to keep calm and have improved relationships with his brother and parents. He is also now looking at doing a post 16 fitness instruction course and has gone from being an anxious school refuser to teaching daily off of his own back and wanting to go into a profession where he can teach and help others. Quite a change!

A number of parents have told us they really appreciate staff checking on them, as well as the pupils. Many have been asking for advice, not just with their child's education but also with their general well-being. They have been very open and honest with the good and the bad days and I think appreciated a friendly ear.”

“During this period it is heartening to hear about young people who, as well as completing school work, are trying new activities with their families” said a Family Support Manager. “I hear many stories of cakes being baked, rooms being decorated and garden makeovers. For our students, anything that strengthens family relationships and makes them feel part of something special must be seen as hugely positive.”

Following further guidance from the Government last month Wave opened six educational hubs for vulnerable children and children of key workers on 14th April 2020. The six hubs – Penwith (Penzance), Nine Maidens (Redruth), North Cornwall (Bodmin), Stansfield (Exeter) and the medical provision CHES in Cornwall and Torlands in Devon – are being provided in addition to the current model of education delivery and support.

Pupils from Restormel, Caradon and North Cornwall acadmies are attending the hub based at the Wave academy in Bodmin. With an average of six pupils from the three schools attending each day, the site has been divided into three separate areas, enabling each school to have its own self contained area with separate entrances and exits to ensure social distancing at all times.

“Thanks to the high numbers of staff volunteering to support pupils, we have been able to offer virtually the full curriculum at the hub, with pupils benefiting from being able to work on a 1 to 1 basis” explained Principal Richard Triggs. “This has enabled staff to deliver bespoke lessons to each pupil, whether that has been working towards filling gaps in knowledge, or towards greater depth of understanding in their GCSE qualifications, or developing life skills such as healthy cooking.”

CHES, which provides support for pupils who are not in school for medical reasons, is also running a hub for its vulnerable pupils, as well as providing online support. Pupils at the hub are taking part in core lessons in English, Maths and Science, as well as more practical life skills, including cooking and craft work.

Rob Gasson has been overwhelmed by the positive response from pupils and parents, who have praised Wave staff for the way in which they are supporting their children during the pandemic. “These are obviously very challenging times and it has been fantastic to see how everyone has joined together to do the very best they can to support pupils during this lockdown period. We know that many parents have been finding it difficult to home school their children and our staff have been working very hard to support them. 

We have received some incredibly moving messages from parents highlighting the difference our support has made, including one describing us a “life support machine”, which has made us all very proud.”  

One parent of a child at Torlands Academy sent a message to Wave saying “cancellation of GCSE’s may have negatively impacted on my son’s drive but his online teachers and staff have all been outstanding in their ability to continually provide compassion, understanding and motivation.” Another said “She loves her online learning. It's been phenomenal for her, for her learning, for her confidence, for her self-esteem and believing in herself, that she can do it after all. I will be eternally grateful for Wave and the opportunity you have given her. She absolutely loves her lessons - it's been a lifeline for her.”

Another family from mid Cornwall, initially concerned about Simon* (name changed) attending an alternative provision school, explained how much better life had become since he had joined Wave. While they had been concerned at the closure of the school because of coronavirus, they said the support they had received, including the daily phone calls, GCSE work delivered to the home (as well as the odd cake), and ideas for games and other activities had all helped ensure their son did not go off the rails. “I’m so proud to say our son has been a student at Wave Multi Academy in St. Austell with the best teachers ever. We would like to thank you for all you and your staff do for our children - the staff have been like a life support machine for us all. Without them we know things would have been so difficult. It is an amazing place and every single member of staff in that school should be given a medal. They are a credit to the children we cannot thank them enough.”

Another parent added “Thank you to you all for believing in my son, helping him and understanding. You are amazing. The constant contact you have with parents is brilliant. I always look forward to the daily texts. I have said to my friends if only every school was like yours.”

Other positive comments from parents include "I just want to say how incredible you've all been for my son. He's had so much support and he's done so much work online and on the phone with teachers. It's amazing!" and "I've really appreciated the phone calls twice a week, more for myself to have a conversation with another adult! We have been given plenty of work for (name redacted). I can't think of anything else we would need support wise. It's great. Thank you.”

Like all other schools across the country, the CEO, Rob Gasson, and the Wave team are waiting for guidance from the Government on how it is intending to relax the current lockdown restrictions. In the meantime they are continuing to support pupils and parents, as well as developing plans to ensure they can re-open safely once the specific guidance for schools is released.

“Wave staff are in constant contact with our pupils and their families, they are going above and beyond to do everything they can for our pupils. This support includes daily welfare/safeguarding calls, online tuition, delivering hard-copy resources, sourcing and delivering free-school meal vouchers, performing 'eyes on' checks and there is regular liaison with other professionals. The offer we are making to our pupils remains high quality and we constantly monitor the progress and safety of pupils to ensure that their needs continue to be met.

There is presently no date proposed by the Government for when schools in England will fully re-open. The practical steps that will be taken to fully re-open to pupils whilst ensuring that our academies are a safe place to be, for pupils and staff, will be based on our own risk assessments. This will be communicated to our staff, pupils, parents and carers directly before we fully reopen. 

We take the safety of our pupils and staff extremely seriously, and as such any decisions will be led by the scientific advice available aligned with the values that define us as a Trust.”